One of my uncles was an alcoholic. Actually there were two of my mother’s brothers who were addicted to alcohol.
The one I am referring to in this writing was named Roland Sanders, and he was an extremely successful business man. My mother’s family grew up in very poor conditions. There were eight children along with my grandmother and grandfather living in a home that could not have been bigger that 1,000 square feet, if that. Plumbing was outdoors.
In spite of these conditions and more likely because of the conditions of their upbringing, Roland and Wayne (Wayne was the youngest of the eight children) were financially very, very successful. Other of the eight did well as adults; some were refinery workers, some were administrative assistants, one (my mother) managed the biggest hotel in our city, some were stay-at-home mothers, but as to my knowledge only two were addicts.
Uncle Roland’s drinking caught up with him, and he spent some time in a hospital, on a wing designated for people with mental illness. That was his wake-up call. He was shaken from a life of uncertainty, fogged by his abuse of a legal substance, to become one of the most sought after speakers on the Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) circuit.
His association with this very worthy organization not only saved his life, it saved his job and likely his family. He began making true friends and adding to his considerable acquaintances list.
Roland died from something other than anything that was a result of his alcohol abuse.
During my uncle Roland’s funeral, his AA sponsor was allowed to speak. He praised Roland’s commitment to sobriety and his deep dedication to helping others. He detailed just how many of the chapters of AA, from far and wide, requested and received his time and dedication. He spoke of how uncle Roland made time to share his story with those who needed to hear it whereby he went from alcohol controlling him to him controlling alcohol. He stopped drinking and started making a difference and, in doing so, made friends.
His AA sponsor, with eyes full of tears, proudly declared that Roland Sanders was his friend.
What he said next shook me to my core. He said that in life you will have five friends (he held up his right hand and spread his fingers for effect). He said that you will have limitless acquaintances but probably no more than five (he held his hand up again) friends.
Friends are the people that are there when you need them and when you don’t. When you call, they answer or quickly call you back. When you ask questions, they answer. When you need someone to listen, they are all ears. When they disagree with your decisions, they don’t avoid the confrontation for fear that they might make you mad or offend you. They speak up. They care enough to not care how you respond. They love you.
Acquaintances are just the opposite.
Friends are forever and stick closer than a brother.
I am proud and blessed to say that one of my five friends is Norma Wade, who is also my best friend. She is my wife, and I am a much better man because she holds me as a dear friend and not just her husband and never as an acquaintance.